Drowning is a common form of unintentional fatal injury, in fact in the United States there are approximately ten (10) deaths a day due to drowning.
Babies and young children can drown in an inch of water, and sadly many parents and the main child care personnel are not aware of this fact. It is for this reason that a child should never be left unattended in a bathtub, near a fish tank or a sink, as your child can drown in the minutes that it may take you to answer a ringing doorbell.
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When most of us think about drowning, we think of lakes, oceans and residential pools, and the rest of this article will focus on water safety and ways to prevent drownings in these large bodies of water.
- It may seem obvious, but learn how to swim. Even the crawl (commonly known as the “doggy paddle) or properly learning how to tread water can be a life-saving technique.
- Utilize life jackets. These lifesaving floatation devices are designed to keep your head above the water level, so breathing is possible. One size does not fit all, so a child should never wear a life jacket designed for an adult, as it may deem it ineffective. A properly fitted life jacket is very important, because the tight fitting jacket will keep a person warm in cold water. Life jackets should be tested annually for buoyancy.
- Be able to identify and more importantly avoid strong currents. Oceans are commonly susceptible to forces of nature, and strong currents can pose dangerous conditions (especially, for inexperienced and/or weak swimmers). Rip currents are fast and strong, and can quickly pull a swimmer out to sea; it is advised to stay away from them, if possible.
3a. To identify a rip current, you will notice a narrow portion of water being particularly choppy. The water in a rip current will be noticeably different in color than the surrounding water. Seaweed and other debris will be moving out to sea in a steady flow. In addition, wave patterns in a rip current will be noticeably irregular.
- Don’t panic. If you find yourself in a rip current, knowing the correct reaction can be lifesaving. In this case, the natural instinct would be to swim against the current, and this could increase the danger. The proper thing to do is to swim (hard and fast) parallel to the shore. Many rip current are usually very active in narrow channels, swimming in this matter will eventually get you to calmer water more quickly and effectively.
- Float. Fighting is a natural reaction to drowning, but to conserve energy, it is advised to float (or tread water). You want to have plenty of energy to be able to signal for help.
- Finally, it is advised never to use alcohol or drugs before or during water activities, as motor skills and judgment are severely impaired.